Tag Archives for " Grevie "

Barcelona's Attacking Process

By Stevie Grieve

This is the second of two posts looking at Barcelona's methods and tactics from the Champions League Final versus Juventus. This week we look at Barcelona's attacking process.

In the Juventus analysis, I looked at how they would try to stop Messi, which forced Barcelona to adjust and look for alternative routes to goal – they would often switch play and attack from Neymar and Jordi Alba.

If Alves was high, Alba stayed deep and vice versa, or if both were high, Busquets stayed deep to form a 3v2 situation at the back and cover the defence in the pre-transition phase.

They looked to play less of a positional game behind the

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Barcelona in Defense

By Stevie Grieve

This post is the first of two looking at Barcelona's methods and tactics from the Champions League Final versus Juventus. This week we look at Barcelona's defending process.

Set Pieces; Pique the spare man in mixed marking system

Barcelona have only conceded one goal from set pieces all season while Juventus are a dangerous team from them, so this may have been a game where Barcelona may have been legitimately worried about conceding from a set play. With Barcelona’s lack of height in comparison to Juventus, Gerard Pique’s role in defending set pieces would be key – the only player other than Sergio Busquets and GK Marc-Andre Ter Stegen above 6ft2 and capable of competing in the air.


As the ball is delivered, we see Pique is the spare man with

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Attacking Barcelona

By Stevie Grieve

This post continues our look at the Champions League Final between Juventus and FC Barcelona. This week we look at Juventus' attacking process.

Isolate the centre backs 1v1 in wide areas

When playing with 2 centre forwards in a defensive based system, the natural idea is to isolate the centre backs 1v1 in transition, and to try and take them on and go direct to goal. For Juventus, both strikers are quick and good in 1v1 play, so isolating the centre backs in wide areas would be a natural way to play with 2v2 at the back.


Mascherano is dragged wide by Morata who takes 1 touch and

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UEFA Champions League Final - Part 3

By Stevie Grieve

Vulnerable to the switch of play especially Messi-Neymar or Alba on the left

Barcelona exploit this via switching play to Neymar / Jordi Alba
The biggest problem with Juventus playing closer to the left side (Messi’s side) and compacting the space is that the defensive and midfield chains get dragged across to cover for each player moving across, resulting in a lack of protection on the far side.

Often Neymar would drag Liechtsteiner inside, while Jordi Alba made late runs from deep and exploit the space 2v1. The 1st goal comes from this, resulting in Bonucci being drawn across to deal with Neymar while Vidal failed to track Iniesta who passes to Rakitic for the opening goal.


Here, we can see the

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UEFA Champions League Final - Part 2

By Stevie Grieve

Evra pressing out of the defensive line to close down Messi, Rakitic or Alves at RW

As Messi plays the deepest of the Barcelona front 3, Patrice Evra was tasked to push out of the defensive line and play close to Messi, usually with Paul Pogba but often with Vidal close to Messi (Pogba moved to RM on 30 minutes for 6 minutes then back to LM).

When Evra pressed ahead of the defensive line, it often would leave a large space for Suarez, Alves or Rakitic to move into, which would draw the Juve defensive line over and leave them ‘over compact’ and vulnerable to a switch of play, particularly from Messi to Neymar or Jordi Alba.

Messi has been closed down but not enough to impact where he will dribble into and release the ball as the exit diagonally hasn’t been sufficiently closed enough as the

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UEFA Champions League Final - Part 1

By Stevie Grieve

Juventus v Barcelona

In what proved to be a fantastic game of football both technically and tactically, the team with the most flair in attack proved to be the winners, but it was a game of defensive organisation in both teams, particularly in defensive transitions where both teams were incredibly quick to get back into position form an attacking phase, then become organised. Some clever tactical implementations where used, such as Ivan Rakitic and Dani Alves rotating positions defensively when the right back zone needed covered, and Gerard Pique playing as a single ‘defensive target’ when Barcelona defended.

We also saw Massimiliano Allegri block the influence of Lionel Messi in a penetrative way, not stopping his influence completely as he was able to open up the play with his range of passing and be a danger even 40m from goal, instead of the position we have become accustomed to seeing him in recent years as a false 9 and being the

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Too Much Focus on One Player

By Stevie Grieve

Since January, the return to form of Lionel Messi has seen him reach new heights in performance, unseen ever when he was World Player of The Year for 4 seasons running (2009 2010 2011 2012) and now he has changed his role in the team to play as a deep inverted winger, who has almost a free role as Dani Alves and Ivan Rakitic adapt the RB and RCM positioning to change and cover for Messi as he goes looking for solutions from deep.

We often see Messi in a position where he can play a now trademark diagonal through ball from the inside right channel to the inside left channel, where Thierry Henry, David Villa, Pedro, and now Neymar are the main beneficiaries of his fantastic through balls and lofted passes from this deep position.

In the game v Bilbao, they tried to overload Messi 2v1 and 3v1 on the touchline and block his access to the dribble diagonally towards the centre backs with the ball protected on his left side, but often left his supporting team mates unmarked or left the space inside open to be attacked by the supporting team mates. Often, this would mean that Messi would simply make a pass and allow his team mates to attack the defence with players on the

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Sevilla Blocking Diagonal Passes

By Stevie Grieve

Europa League holders and this seasons finalists, Sevilla, are a team with a strong defensive unit and a strong attacking process, particularly on the counter attack.

Against a possession orientated team like Fiorentina, they allowed the Italians to have the ball and then defend from areas where they felt comfortable to make Fiorentina predictable; on the sides where Fiorentia played with ‘inverted wingers’ in a 4-3-3.

From the wide zone, they looked to block the cut inside with close positioning to play 2v1 or if the play was with a midfielder or full back in a wide zone, they would ensure they had solid defensive triangles to cover the pass through the movement to engage 1v1 on the side which would often be in 2v2,3v3 or 4v4 scenarios.

To do this, the central midfielder on the far side would look to cover any angle between the 2 closest pressing players to the ball and block anything diagonally between the

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Bayern's Failure to Stop Messi

By Stevie Grieve

In the Champions League Semi Final between Barcelona and Bayern Munich, the score was decided by one player's ability to find space when there is little available, despite Bayern Munich’s best attempts to control the space around Lionel Messi, particularly in the 1st half.

For the 1st half, Bayern played wide and looked to enter the attacking phases from the CF drifting wide then playing 1v1 on the side and attacking from there, while Barcelona played more direct from central zones in transition, looking to use Suarez’ tenacity behind the Bayern defence, or with lots of circulation which kept the ball and looked for a breakthrough from quick combinations around the goal or in 1v1 play.

The 2nd half changed for Barcelona when Iniesta, Neymar, Messi and Rakitic all played directly through the channels, looking to cut inside and combine with centrally based players; Suarez or Neymar on the last line of the defence, with Alba and Alves staying deeper and making late runs outside the play.

The main danger was always through an ‘inverted’ player, cutting inside, particularly Messi from the

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Flexibility of the 4-2-3-1 System

This is a short excerpt from Coaching the 4-2-3-1 Advanced Tactics by Stevie Grieve. The book takes a detailed look at how to get the best out of this very popular formation.

When changing formation, there are many variables that can come from this, mainly from an attacking and defensive positioning starting position basis.

Some players’ roles and responsibilities change, although not drastically. In a 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 some players responsibilities stay the same, mainly the back 4 and central striker. The back 4 as always must protect the goal and defend as a priority, then support the attacking phase secondary.
Full backs in very attacking teams can allow wingers to play slightly more infield if they wish, or if the winger stays on the touchline, provide deep support or an under lapping run to offer an extra option if places under pressure. The runs from the full back can open up new solutions when the ball is with the winger.

Some wingers can commonly play 1v2, so the

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Atletico Attack the Strong Side

By Stevie Grieve

Atletico Madrid may not regain the Spanish League title that they earned last season, but Diego Simeone has kept them competitive in 3 competitions with arguably a weaker starting XI than last season, losing Goalkeeper Thibaud Courtois, Left Back Felipe Luis and Talismanic Striker, Diego Costa all to Chelsea. Simeone replaced these players with players of similar playing profiles;

Jan Oblak and Guillherme Siqueirha from Benfica, Mario Mandzukic from Bayern Munich, while adding mobile attacker Antoine Griezmann from Real Sociedad. This has given them a team with similar profiles in each area from last season while arguably a weaker team, other additions such as creative midfielder Cani, have given them more options Siqueirha is an attacking left back, Manduzkic is the

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Lyon’s Attacking Movements

By Stevie Grieve

Lyon have been this season's ‘surprise’ package in Ligue 1, with a team of cast-offs who have proved unsuccessful at other clubs and academy graduates, staying in the top 6 would be the realistic aim and top 3 would’ve been ambitious. As it has unfolded, Lyon have been one of the most attack minded teams in the league, scoring 60 goals in 31 games, and having the best goal difference in the league.

Some of the success has come from the emergence of Nabil Fekir and the continued improvement year on year of Alexandre Lacazette, the return to form of Yoann Gourcuff, and a stable 4-4-2 diamond formation, with attacking full backs providing the width when the dual strikers are more central.

Lyon use a fluid formation and one of the reasons for this is the above mentioned Full Backs, the fluidity of movement from the strikers and how they stretch the field when in possession.

Basic Shape; 4-1-2-1-2 becoming 4-3-3 becoming 2-1-4-3


Both FBs (black circles) are very high, on the line of the

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Juventus Compact Defense

By Stevie Grieve

Massimiliano Allegri was appointed Juventus coach in the summer after the departure of Antonio Conte to the Italian National Squad, and has tried to adapt the Conte 5-3-2 formation and solid defensive system, to a more expansive 4-4-2 diamond formation, using the energy or Pogba and Marchisio in central midfield while giving Tevez and new summer recruit Alvaro Morata more freedom of movement by playing a front 2 with an attacking central midfielder giving a central presence behind them.

This has led to success in the Champions League this season, and currently leaves them in an almost untouchable position at the top of Serie A. A large part of this is the coach and team’s ability to alter the 4-4-2 diamond and change to a 5-3-2. In the game v Borussia Dortmund, Andrea Pirlo was unavailable and inside the 1st 20 minutes, Juventus lost exciting midfielder Paul Pogba to injury.

The coach reacted to this by changing to

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Thiago’s Flexibility to Play Multiple Defensive Shapes

By Stevie Grieve

During the run to winning La Liga in 2014 and reaching the Champions League Final in 2014, Diego Simeone’s well organised team were very flexible in their defensive structure. Normally a team who would play 4-4-2 in attack, they could play defensively in multiple formations; 4-4-2, 4-1-4-1, -4-5-1 and 4-3-3.

To do this from a starting position and stay in these positions and defend in the one shape is fairly easy to coach, but much more difficult is to teach players to understand how to come out of a compact 4-1-4-1 into a high 4-4-2 press and who compensates for the player coming out of line to help the front player, and what the different roles are for the players around the space which is vacated.

Thiago of Atletico de Madrid has been able to demonstrate the flexible positional qualities to understand when to move forward or back, how to shift laterally and cover space, without being exposed between the lines or in the space left to press, such as against Bayer Leverkusen.

Thiago between the lines in a 4-1-4-1


Here, we can see a clear 4-1-4-1 shape for

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Stopping Bayern’s Positional Play with Man-Man Marking

By Stevie Grieve

Pep Guardiola a main exponent of ‘positional play’ (or ‘Juego de posicion’ in Spanish) and uses a system based on overloads via occupying multiple defenders, occupying specific spaces, creating overloads and spaces to attack into whenever possible, and looking for ways to turn 11v11 into a 2v1 or 3v2 by placing players in areas where a zonal defence can be exploited.

A common feature of this is positioning a player in a pocket of space between the lines and in particular in the channels between wide and central players while between the lines. If a defender comes out of his zone to press, this leaves a gap for another to move into, and often de-stabilizes the defence for a few seconds, which is often exploited and leads to scoring chances.

If a player is unable to receive in any position, often they will only stay there for 2-3 seconds then make another quick run; the position will be interchanged with someone else, and the defenders have the decision – mark or stay in zone. The attackers regularly rotating positions causes confusion and often leads to Bayern overloading 2v1 or even leaving someone 1v0 in a dangerous area against the defensive line.

With the regular movement and occupation of several defenders with 1 or 2 players, this frees up players in defence or midfield to overload, gain control of the centre of the field then force the defence deeper.

Playing against positional play with a zonal defence is a job which requires a well drilled team and have the ability to deal with playing 3v2 or 4v3 in wide zones, but

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Schalke Controlling the Channels v Real Madrid

By Stevie Grieve

In the Champions League encounter between Schalke and Real Madrid, Schalke played the their usual deep 5-3-2 formation adopted by Roberto Di Matteo since he took charge earlier in the season. They normally play quite passive and only engage to press in numbers, specifically in 3v1s in the channel or when there is a good chance of a regain and particularly 2v1 against the touchline.

Schalke blocking Real Madrid’s channel attacking zone


As Kroos, Isco on the ball, Ronaldo and Marcelo are in the same strip of field. Schalke are able to control any forward passes, so Isco elects to dribble with no

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Congestion on Chelsea’s Right Side

By Stevie Grieve

In the recent Champions League match between PSG and Chelsea, Chelsea set up to play compact and defensively with an emphasis on counter-attack, with a high prioritization with blocking PSG’s left with lots of players on that side of the field, with Willian, Cesc, Ramires and Ivanovic all regularly defending on that side against Maxwell, Matuidi and Lavezzi.

Normally, Costa would go to help and Matic would drift over to provide cover for the right side incase PSG broke though and exploited the space, while PSG would often send over Verratti and Cavani to provide extra bodies to try to find an overload.

Consequently, this means that often 8-11 players would be found on one side and within ¼ of the field or less, resulting in Chelsea blocking the vertical attacking actions PSG were looking for on the right side with Maxwell and Matuidi giving left sided balance and crossing opportunities.

PSG Tactical Alteration at Half Time- 3-4-3 with Switches to free Maxwell and Matuidi


In the 2nd half, instead of playing directly into the

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Messi’s New Position at Barcelona

By Stevie Grieve

Despite the criticism of Luis Enrique this season, he has made an improvement on the work by Tata Martino last season, by re-introducing a pressing game and adding an aggressive offside trap, while finding a way to play the front 3 of Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar. Earlier in the season, Luis Suarez and Messi failed to connect with enough regularity so Enrique had to find a solution; change Messi from being the false 9 and instead play Messi in a right sided free role with Suarez central.

Obviously, having Messi on the side and not in the centre would make him less effective, so to allow him to drift inside and have Suarez occupy several defenders, there has been a newly formed right sided triangle created with the occupation of the wide zone rotating between Messi and Rakitic, with Alves playing slightly deeper due to his declining physical prowess.

Normally, we will see Ivan Rakitic as the right sided central midfielder, with Messi as a

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Marseille under Bielsa - Attacking from Wide

By Stevie Grieve

Marcelo Bielsa is a coach who many of the great coaches have studied methods from, coaches like Pep Guardiola among many others have credited Marcelo Bielsa with provoking the way they think about the game and implement many of his ideas into their own teams. One of Bielsa’s trademarks in his traditional 3-3-1-3 /3-4-3 diamond formation was attacking wingbacks or full backs. This strategy has had to be adapted to be successful in Europe however, and he has adapted a 4-2-3-1 or flexible 4-3-3 hybrid formation with a player dropping between the CB’s to build up play, with a massive emphasis on using the pace and attacking instincts of Djadjedje down the right with Thauvin, while Pierre-Andre Gignac play almost as a left forward – playing on the far side to attack crosses.

When they attack from wide areas, they like to play 2v1 against the full back, with at least 3 and normally 4 or 5 inside the box, positioned within 3 key zones, and often looking for loose balls from other positions inside the

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